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Facebook accused of encouraging grooming after investigation
Source: Charlie Moore

Facebook has been accused of encouraging grooming after an investigation revealed teenage girls are being offered middle-aged men as 'friend suggestions'.

Young girls who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they should add as friends, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found.

In some cases, the suggestions include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile pictures.

Facebook says it has safeguards to protect children but campaigners warn the company must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, told The Sunday Telegraph: "Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children's friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to livestreaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse.

"Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and 'friend of friend' or 'new follower' recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

"For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children's safety is non-negotiable."

A spokesman for Facebook said: "Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts.

"We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

"We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts."

Last month Facebook said company moderators during the last quarter removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed software that automatically flags such photos.

The machine learning tool rolled out over the last year identifies images that contain both nudity and a child, allowing increased enforcement of Facebook's ban on photos that show minors in a sexualized context.

A similar system catches users engaged in 'grooming,' or befriending minors for sexual exploitation, the company said.


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